EP3229069B1 - Vehicle camera - Google Patents

Vehicle camera Download PDF

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Publication number
EP3229069B1
EP3229069B1 EP17164525.2A EP17164525A EP3229069B1 EP 3229069 B1 EP3229069 B1 EP 3229069B1 EP 17164525 A EP17164525 A EP 17164525A EP 3229069 B1 EP3229069 B1 EP 3229069B1
Authority
EP
European Patent Office
Prior art keywords
variable lens
vehicle
electrodes
substrate
image sensor
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Active
Application number
EP17164525.2A
Other languages
German (de)
French (fr)
Other versions
EP3229069A1 (en
Inventor
Jooyoung Kim
Hun Kim
Wonsuk Lee
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
LG Electronics Inc
Original Assignee
LG Electronics Inc
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to KR1020160042973A priority Critical patent/KR101822894B1/en
Application filed by LG Electronics Inc filed Critical LG Electronics Inc
Publication of EP3229069A1 publication Critical patent/EP3229069A1/en
Application granted granted Critical
Publication of EP3229069B1 publication Critical patent/EP3229069B1/en
Active legal-status Critical Current
Anticipated expiration legal-status Critical

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G02OPTICS
    • G02BOPTICAL ELEMENTS, SYSTEMS, OR APPARATUS
    • G02B15/00Optical objectives with means for varying the magnification
    • G02B15/02Optical objectives with means for varying the magnification by changing, adding, or subtracting a part of the objective, e.g. convertible objective
    • G02B15/04Optical objectives with means for varying the magnification by changing, adding, or subtracting a part of the objective, e.g. convertible objective by changing a part
    • GPHYSICS
    • G02OPTICS
    • G02FDEVICES OR ARRANGEMENTS, THE OPTICAL OPERATION OF WHICH IS MODIFIED BY CHANGING THE OPTICAL PROPERTIES OF THE MEDIUM OF THE DEVICES OR ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE CONTROL OF THE INTENSITY, COLOUR, PHASE, POLARISATION OR DIRECTION OF LIGHT, e.g. SWITCHING, GATING, MODULATING OR DEMODULATING; TECHNIQUES OR PROCEDURES FOR THE OPERATION THEREOF; FREQUENCY-CHANGING; NON-LINEAR OPTICS; OPTICAL LOGIC ELEMENTS; OPTICAL ANALOGUE/DIGITAL CONVERTERS
    • G02F1/00Devices or arrangements for the control of the intensity, colour, phase, polarisation or direction of light arriving from an independent light source, e.g. switching, gating, or modulating; Non-linear optics
    • G02F1/29Devices or arrangements for the control of the intensity, colour, phase, polarisation or direction of light arriving from an independent light source, e.g. switching, gating, or modulating; Non-linear optics for the control of the position or the direction of light beams, i.e. deflection
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N5/00Details of television systems
    • H04N5/222Studio circuitry; Studio devices; Studio equipment ; Cameras comprising an electronic image sensor, e.g. digital cameras, video cameras, TV cameras, video cameras, camcorders, webcams, camera modules for embedding in other devices, e.g. mobile phones, computers or vehicles
    • H04N5/225Television cameras ; Cameras comprising an electronic image sensor, e.g. digital cameras, video cameras, camcorders, webcams, camera modules specially adapted for being embedded in other devices, e.g. mobile phones, computers or vehicles
    • H04N5/2251Constructional details
    • H04N5/2254Mounting of optical parts, e.g. lenses, shutters, filters or optical parts peculiar to the presence or use of an electronic image sensor
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60QARRANGEMENT OF SIGNALLING OR LIGHTING DEVICES, THE MOUNTING OR SUPPORTING THEREOF OR CIRCUITS THEREFOR, FOR VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60Q9/00Arrangements or adaptations of signal devices not provided for in one of the preceding main groups, e.g. haptic signalling
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60RVEHICLES, VEHICLE FITTINGS, OR VEHICLE PARTS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B60R1/00Optical viewing arrangements
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60WCONJOINT CONTROL OF VEHICLE SUB-UNITS OF DIFFERENT TYPE OR DIFFERENT FUNCTION; CONTROL SYSTEMS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR HYBRID VEHICLES; ROAD VEHICLE DRIVE CONTROL SYSTEMS FOR PURPOSES NOT RELATED TO THE CONTROL OF A PARTICULAR SUB-UNIT
    • B60W50/00Details of control systems for road vehicle drive control not related to the control of a particular sub-unit, e.g. process diagnostic or vehicle driver interfaces
    • B60W50/08Interaction between the driver and the control system
    • B60W50/12Limiting control by the driver depending on vehicle state, e.g. interlocking means for the control input for preventing unsafe operation
    • GPHYSICS
    • G02OPTICS
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    • G02F1/00Devices or arrangements for the control of the intensity, colour, phase, polarisation or direction of light arriving from an independent light source, e.g. switching, gating, or modulating; Non-linear optics
    • G02F1/01Devices or arrangements for the control of the intensity, colour, phase, polarisation or direction of light arriving from an independent light source, e.g. switching, gating, or modulating; Non-linear optics for the control of the intensity, phase, polarisation or colour 
    • G02F1/13Devices or arrangements for the control of the intensity, colour, phase, polarisation or direction of light arriving from an independent light source, e.g. switching, gating, or modulating; Non-linear optics for the control of the intensity, phase, polarisation or colour  based on liquid crystals, e.g. single liquid crystal display cells
    • G02F1/1313Devices or arrangements for the control of the intensity, colour, phase, polarisation or direction of light arriving from an independent light source, e.g. switching, gating, or modulating; Non-linear optics for the control of the intensity, phase, polarisation or colour  based on liquid crystals, e.g. single liquid crystal display cells specially adapted for a particular application
    • GPHYSICS
    • G03PHOTOGRAPHY; CINEMATOGRAPHY; ANALOGOUS TECHNIQUES USING WAVES OTHER THAN OPTICAL WAVES; ELECTROGRAPHY; HOLOGRAPHY
    • G03BAPPARATUS OR ARRANGEMENTS FOR TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS OR FOR PROJECTING OR VIEWING THEM; APPARATUS OR ARRANGEMENTS EMPLOYING ANALOGOUS TECHNIQUES USING WAVES OTHER THAN OPTICAL WAVES; ACCESSORIES THEREFOR
    • G03B13/00Viewfinders; Focusing aids for cameras; Means for focusing for cameras; Autofocus systems for cameras
    • G03B13/32Means for focusing
    • G03B13/34Power focusing
    • GPHYSICS
    • G03PHOTOGRAPHY; CINEMATOGRAPHY; ANALOGOUS TECHNIQUES USING WAVES OTHER THAN OPTICAL WAVES; ELECTROGRAPHY; HOLOGRAPHY
    • G03BAPPARATUS OR ARRANGEMENTS FOR TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS OR FOR PROJECTING OR VIEWING THEM; APPARATUS OR ARRANGEMENTS EMPLOYING ANALOGOUS TECHNIQUES USING WAVES OTHER THAN OPTICAL WAVES; ACCESSORIES THEREFOR
    • G03B17/00Details of cameras or camera bodies; Accessories therefor
    • G03B17/02Bodies
    • G03B17/12Bodies with means for supporting objectives, supplementary lenses, filters, masks, or turrets
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N13/00Stereoscopic video systems; Multi-view video systems; Details thereof
    • H04N13/20Image signal generators
    • H04N13/204Image signal generators using stereoscopic image cameras
    • H04N13/239Image signal generators using stereoscopic image cameras using two 2D image sensors having a relative position equal to or related to the interocular distance
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N5/00Details of television systems
    • H04N5/222Studio circuitry; Studio devices; Studio equipment ; Cameras comprising an electronic image sensor, e.g. digital cameras, video cameras, TV cameras, video cameras, camcorders, webcams, camera modules for embedding in other devices, e.g. mobile phones, computers or vehicles
    • H04N5/225Television cameras ; Cameras comprising an electronic image sensor, e.g. digital cameras, video cameras, camcorders, webcams, camera modules specially adapted for being embedded in other devices, e.g. mobile phones, computers or vehicles
    • H04N5/2251Constructional details
    • H04N5/2252Housings
    • HELECTRICITY
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    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
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    • H04N5/222Studio circuitry; Studio devices; Studio equipment ; Cameras comprising an electronic image sensor, e.g. digital cameras, video cameras, TV cameras, video cameras, camcorders, webcams, camera modules for embedding in other devices, e.g. mobile phones, computers or vehicles
    • H04N5/225Television cameras ; Cameras comprising an electronic image sensor, e.g. digital cameras, video cameras, camcorders, webcams, camera modules specially adapted for being embedded in other devices, e.g. mobile phones, computers or vehicles
    • H04N5/2257Mechanical and electrical details of cameras or camera modules for embedding in other devices
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N5/00Details of television systems
    • H04N5/222Studio circuitry; Studio devices; Studio equipment ; Cameras comprising an electronic image sensor, e.g. digital cameras, video cameras, TV cameras, video cameras, camcorders, webcams, camera modules for embedding in other devices, e.g. mobile phones, computers or vehicles
    • H04N5/225Television cameras ; Cameras comprising an electronic image sensor, e.g. digital cameras, video cameras, camcorders, webcams, camera modules specially adapted for being embedded in other devices, e.g. mobile phones, computers or vehicles
    • H04N5/232Devices for controlling television cameras, e.g. remote control ; Control of cameras comprising an electronic image sensor
    • H04N5/23212Focusing based on image signals provided by the electronic image sensor
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N5/00Details of television systems
    • H04N5/30Transforming light or analogous information into electric information
    • H04N5/335Transforming light or analogous information into electric information using solid-state image sensors [SSIS]
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04NPICTORIAL COMMUNICATION, e.g. TELEVISION
    • H04N7/00Television systems
    • H04N7/18Closed circuit television systems, i.e. systems in which the signal is not broadcast
    • H04N7/183Closed circuit television systems, i.e. systems in which the signal is not broadcast for receiving images from a single remote source
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K2370/00Details of arrangements or adaptations of instruments specially adapted for vehicles, not covered by groups B60K35/00, B60K37/00
    • B60K2370/10Input devices or features thereof
    • B60K2370/12Input devices or input features
    • B60K2370/143Touch sensitive input devices
    • B60K2370/1438Touch screens
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B60VEHICLES IN GENERAL
    • B60KARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PROPULSION UNITS OR OF TRANSMISSIONS IN VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENT OR MOUNTING OF PLURAL DIVERSE PRIME-MOVERS IN VEHICLES; AUXILIARY DRIVES FOR VEHICLES; INSTRUMENTATION OR DASHBOARDS FOR VEHICLES; ARRANGEMENTS IN CONNECTION WITH COOLING, AIR INTAKE, GAS EXHAUST OR FUEL SUPPLY OF PROPULSION UNITS IN VEHICLES
    • B60K2370/00Details of arrangements or adaptations of instruments specially adapted for vehicles, not covered by groups B60K35/00, B60K37/00
    • B60K2370/15Output devices or features thereof
    • B60K2370/152Displays
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
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    • B60R2011/0001Arrangements for holding or mounting articles, not otherwise provided for characterised by position
    • B60R2011/0003Arrangements for holding or mounting articles, not otherwise provided for characterised by position inside the vehicle
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
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    • B60R2300/205Details of viewing arrangements using cameras and displays, specially adapted for use in a vehicle characterised by the type of display used using a head-up display
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Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
  • This application claims the priority benefit of Korean Patent Application No. 10-2016-0042973, filed on, April 7 2016 in the Korean Intellectual Property Office.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the invention
  • The present invention relates to a vehicle camera and a vehicle.
  • 2. Description of the Related Art
  • A vehicle is an apparatus that transports a user ridding therein in a desired direction. A representative example of a vehicle may be an automobile.
  • Meanwhile, for the convenience of a user who uses the vehicle, for example, a variety of sensors and electronic devices have been mounted in vehicles. In particular, for user driving convenience, an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) has actively been studied. In addition, autonomous vehicles have actively been developed.
  • The ADAS may utilize various sensors. Among these, a camera is representative.
  • A camera used in a conventional ADAS has a constant focal distance and cannot permit appropriate adjustment of the focal distance based on, for example, a vehicle state and a driving state.
  • Document EP 1 995 619 A1 describes an automatic focusing apparatus in which an optical image focused by a liquid crystal lens and an optical lens is converted into an electrical signal by an image sensor in an imaging device. The liquid crystal lens comprises a liquid crystal panel in which a patterned electrode and a common electrode are disposed facing each other on inside surfaces of a pair of opposing glass substrates. The patterned electrode has a pattern comprising a plurality of C-shaped ring electrodes.
  • Document US 2014/152933 A1 discloses a liquid crystal display heating system with internal common electrode line (VCOM) resistor heating meshes in a pixel array. A resistor heating mesh includes a plurality of horizontal common voltage lines (polysilicon) and a plurality of vertical common voltage lines (polysilicon). A heater driver is connected to each heater (mesh VCOM) terminal, to supply a proper DC voltage that causes a proper current to flow through the polysilicon VCOM lines, wherein the current flow heats the display elements coupled to the vertical common voltage lines of mesh VCOM.
  • In document JP 2009 180951 A , a focusing device is described, which includes a liquid crystal lens for holding a liquid crystal layer by a pattern electrode group and a common electrode, and a controller for switching a voltage applied to the pattern electrode group to form a refractive index distribution in the liquid crystal layer. In an embodiment, the voltage distribution applied when the liquid crystal lens has the effect of a concave lens and the voltage distribution applied when setting the effect of the convex lens are such that they cross.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • Therefore, the present invention is made to solve the problems described above and one object of the present invention is to provide a vehicle camera including a variable lens.
  • In addition, another object of the present invention is to provide a vehicle including the vehicle camera described above.
  • Objects of the present invention should not be limited to the aforementioned object and other not-mentioned objects will be clearly understood by those skilled in the art from the following description.
  • The present invention concerns a vehicle camera having the features of claim 1.
  • In accordance with an aspect of the present invention, the above and other objects can be accomplished by the provision of a driver assistance apparatus including
    a camera provided in a vehicle for acquiring an image, and a processor for processing the image, wherein the camera includes an image sensor, and a variable lens having a liquid crystal layer, the variable lens being configured to change light to be introduced into the image sensor based on an arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the liquid crystal layer, which depends on an applied voltage.
  • Detailed items of other embodiments are included in the following description and the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The above and other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will be more clearly understood from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
    • FIG. 1 is a view illustrating the external appearance of a vehicle in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 2 is a block diagram referenced to describe a vehicle in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 3 is a perspective view illustrating a vehicle camera in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view illustrating the vehicle camera in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 5 is a cutaway side sectional view illustrating the vehicle camera taken along line A-B of FIG. 3 in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 6 is a perspective view illustrating a vehicle camera in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 7 is an exploded perspective view illustrating the vehicle camera in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 8 is a cutaway side sectional view illustrating the vehicle camera taken along line C-D of FIG. 6 in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 9 is an enlarged cutaway side sectional view illustrating portion CR1 of FIG. 5 or portion CR2 of FIG. 8;
    • FIGs. 10A to 11 are enlarged side views illustrating portion HS of FIG. 9, which are referenced to describe various embodiments of a holder and a hot wire provided in the holder;
    • FIG. 12 is a view referenced to describe a variable lens in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 13 is a view referenced to describe a first substrate in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIGs. 14A to 14C are views referenced to describe an operation in which different levels of voltage are respectively applied to each of a plurality of first electrodes in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 15 is a view referenced to describe the arrangement of the first electrodes in the left-right direction in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 16 is a view referenced to describe the arrangement of the first electrodes in the left-right direction and the up-down direction in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIGs. 17 and 18 are views referenced to describe a vehicle camera including a plurality of variable lenses in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
    • FIG. 19 is a view referenced to describe the variable lens included in the driver assistance apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • Hereinafter, the embodiments disclosed in the present specification will be described in detail with reference to the accompanying drawings, and the same or similar elements are denoted by the same reference numerals even though they are depicted in different drawings and redundant descriptions thereof will be omitted. In the following description, with respect to constituent elements used in the following description, suffixes "module" and "unit" are given or mingled with each other only in consideration of ease in the preparation of the specification, and do not have or serve as different meanings. Accordingly, the suffixes "module" and "unit" may be mingled with each other. In addition, in the following description of the embodiments disclosed in the present specification, a detailed description of known functions and configurations incorporated herein will be omitted when it may make the subject matter of the embodiments disclosed in the present specification rather unclear. In addition, the accompanying drawings are provided only for a better understanding of the embodiments disclosed in the present specification and are not intended to limit technical ideas disclosed in the present specification.
  • It will be understood that although the terms first, second, etc., may be used herein to describe various components, these components should not be limited by these terms. These terms are only used to distinguish one component from another component.
  • It will be understood that when a component is referred to as being "connected to" or "coupled to" another component, it may be directly connected to or coupled to another component or intervening components may be present. In contrast, when a component is referred to as being "directly connected to" or "directly coupled to" another component, there are no intervening components present. In addition, it will be understood that when a component is referred to as "controlling" another component, it may directly control another component, or may also control another component via the mediation of a third component. In addition, it will be understood that when a component is referred to as "providing" another component with information and signals, it may directly provide another component with the same and may also provide another component the same via the mediation of a third component.
  • As used herein, the singular form is intended to include the plural forms as well, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.
  • In the present application, it will be further understood that the terms "comprises", includes," etc. specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps, operations, elements, components, or combinations thereof, but do not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, steps, operations, elements, components, or combinations thereof.
  • A vehicle as described in this specification may include an automobile and a motorcycle. Hereinafter, a description will be given based on a car.
  • A vehicle as described in this specification may include all of an internal combustion engine vehicle including an engine as a power source, a hybrid vehicle including both an engine and an electric motor as a power source, and an electric vehicle including an electric motor as a power source.
  • In the following description, "the left side of the vehicle" refers to the left side in the forward driving direction of the vehicle, and "the right side of the vehicle" refers to the right side in the forward driving direction of the vehicle.
  • FIG. 1 is a view illustrating the external appearance of a vehicle in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • Referring to FIG. 1, the vehicle 100 may include wheels that are rotated by a power source, and a steering input device for adjusting the direction of travel of the vehicle 100.
  • In some embodiments, the vehicle 100 may be an autonomous vehicle. The autonomous vehicle enables bidirectional switching between an autonomous driving mode and a manual mode in response to user input. When switched to the manual mode, the autonomous vehicle 100 may receive driver input for driving via a driving operation device (see reference numeral 121 in FIG. 2).
  • The vehicle 100 may include a driver assistance apparatus 400. The driver assistance apparatus 400 is an apparatus that assists a driver based on information acquired from various sensors. The driver assistance apparatus 400 may be referred to as an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS).
  • The following description will be given based on a vehicle camera 200 that serves as a sensor used in the driver assistance apparatus 400, without being limited thereto. In some embodiments, the sensor may include a radar, Lidar, ultrasonic sensor, or infrared sensor, in addition to the vehicle camera 200.
  • In addition, the following description will be given based on a mono camera 200a and a stereo camera 200b, which serves as the vehicle camera 200 used in the driver assistance apparatus 400, without being limited thereto. In some embodiments, the vehicle camera 200 may include a triple camera, an Around View Monitoring (AVM) camera, a 360-degree camera, or an omnidirectional camera.
  • In the drawings, although the vehicle camera 200 used in the driver assistance apparatus 400 is illustrated as being mounted on a front windshield 10 in order to capture an image of the view to the front of the vehicle 100, the vehicle camera 200 may capture an image of any direction including the front side, the rear side, the right side and the left side of the vehicle 100. Accordingly, the vehicle camera 200 may be located at an appropriate position outside or inside the vehicle 100.
  • In some embodiments, the vehicle camera 200 may capture an image of the view inside the vehicle 100.
  • "The overall length" means the length from the front end to the rear end of the vehicle 100, "the overall width" means the width of the vehicle 100, and "the overall height" means the height from the bottom of the wheel to the roof. In the following description, "the overall length direction L" may mean the reference direction for the measurement of the overall length of the vehicle 100, "the overall width direction W" may mean the reference direction for the measurement of the overall width of the vehicle 100, and "the overall height direction H" may mean the reference direction for the measurement of the overall height of the vehicle 100.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram referenced to describe the vehicle 100 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • Referring to FIG. 2, the vehicle 100 may include a communication unit 110, an input unit 120, a sensing unit 125, a memory 130, an output unit 140, a vehicle drive unit 150, a controller 170, an interface unit 180, a power supply unit 190, and the driver assistance apparatus 400.
  • The communication unit 110 may include a short-range communication module 113, a location information module 114, an optical communication module 115, and a V2X communication module 116.
  • The communication unit 110 may include one or more Radio Frequency (RF) circuits or elements in order to perform communication with another device.
  • The short-range communication module 113 may assist short-range communication using at least one selected from among Bluetooth™, Radio Frequency IDdentification (RFID), Infrared Data Association (IrDA), Ultra-WideBand (UWB), ZigBee, Near Field Communication (NFC), Wireless-Fidelity (Wi-Fi), Wi-Fi Direct, and Wireless USB (Wireless Universal Serial Bus).
  • The short-range communication module 113 may form wireless area networks to perform the short-range communication between the vehicle 100 and at least one external device. For example, the short-range communication module 113 may exchange data with a mobile terminal of a passenger in a wireless manner. The short-range communication module 113 may receive weather information and road traffic state information (e.g., Transport Protocol Expert Group (TPEG) information) from the mobile terminal. When a user gets into the vehicle 100, the mobile terminal of the user and the vehicle 100 may pair with each other automatically or as the user executes a pairing application.
  • The location information module 114 is a module for acquiring a location of the vehicle 100. A representative example of the location information module 114 includes a Global Positioning System (GPS) module. For example, when the vehicle 100 utilizes a GPS module, a location of the vehicle 100 may be acquired using signals transmitted from GPS satellites.
  • Meanwhile, in some embodiments, the location information module 114 may be a component included in the sensing unit 125, rather than a component included in the communication unit 110.
  • The optical communication module 115 may include a light emitting unit and a light receiving unit.
  • The light receiving unit may convert light into electrical signals to receive information. The light receiving unit may include Photo Diodes (PDs) for receiving light. The photo diodes may convert light into electrical signals. For example, the light receiving unit may receive information regarding a preceding vehicle via light emitted from a light source included in the preceding vehicle.
  • The light emitting unit may include at least one light emitting element for converting electrical signals into light. Here, the light emitting element may be a Light Emitting Diode (LED). The light emitting unit converts electrical signals into light to thereby emit the light. For example, the light emitting unit may externally emit light via flickering of the light emitting element corresponding to a prescribed frequency. In some embodiments, the light emitting unit may include an array of a plurality of light emitting elements. In some embodiments, the light emitting unit may be integrated with a lamp provided in the vehicle 100. For example, the light emitting unit may be at least one selected from among a headlight, a taillight, a brake light, a turn signal light, and a sidelight. For example, the optical communication module 115 may exchange data with another vehicle via optical communication.
  • The V2X communication module 116 is a module for performing wireless communication with a server or another vehicle. The V2X communication module 116 includes a module capable of realizing a protocol for communication between autonomous driving vehicles (V2V) or communication between an autonomous driving vehicle and an infrastructure (V2I). The vehicle 100 may perform wireless communication with an external server or another vehicle via the V2X communication module 116.
  • The input unit 120 may include the driving operation device 121, a microphone 123, and a user input unit 124.
  • The driving operation device 121 is configured to receive user input for the driving of the vehicle 100. The driving operation device 121 may include a steering input device, a shift input device, an acceleration input device, and a brake input device.
  • The steering input device is configured to receive user input with regard to the direction of travel of the vehicle 100. The steering input device may take the form of a steering wheel to enable steering input via rotation thereof. In some embodiments, the steering input device may be configured as a touchscreen, a touch pad, or a button.
  • The shift input device is configured to receive input for selecting one of Park (P), Drive (D), Neutral (N), and Reverse (R) gears of the vehicle 100 from the user. The shift input device may take the form of a lever. In some embodiments, the shift input device may be configured as a touchscreen, a touch pad, or a button.
  • The acceleration input device is configured to receive user input for the acceleration of the vehicle 100. The brake input device is configured to receive user input for the speed reduction of the vehicle 100. Each of the acceleration input device and the brake input device may take the form of a pedal. In some embodiments, the acceleration input device or the brake input device may be configured as a touchscreen, a touch pad, or a button.
  • The microphone 123 may process external sound signals into electrical data. The processed data may be utilized in various ways according to a function that the vehicle 100 is performing. The microphone 123 may convert a user voice command into electrical data. The converted electrical data may be transmitted to the controller 170.
  • Meanwhile, in some embodiments, the camera 200 or the microphone 123 may be components included in the sensing unit 125, rather than components included in the input unit 120.
  • The user input unit 124 is configured to receive information from the user. When information is input via the user input unit 124, the controller 170 may control the operation of the vehicle 100 so as to correspond to the input information. The user input unit 124 may include a touch input unit or a mechanical input unit. In some embodiments, the user input unit 124 may be located in a region of the steering wheel. In this case, the driver may operate the user input unit 124 with the fingers while gripping the steering wheel.
  • The sensing unit 125 is configured to sense various situations in the vehicle 100 or situations outside the vehicle 100. To this end, the sensing unit 160 may include a collision sensor, a steering wheel sensor, a speed sensor, a gradient sensor, a weight sensor, a heading sensor, a yaw sensor, a gyro sensor, a position module, a vehicle forward/reverse sensor, a battery sensor, a fuel sensor, a tire sensor, a steering sensor based on the rotation of the steering wheel, a vehicle interior temperature sensor, a vehicle interior humidity sensor, an ultrasonic sensor, an illumination sensor, an accelerator pedal position sensor, a brake pedal position sensor, etc.
  • The sensing unit 125 may acquire sensing signals with regard to, for example, vehicle collision information, vehicle driving direction information, vehicle location information (GPS information), vehicle angle information, vehicle speed information, vehicle acceleration information, vehicle tilt information, vehicle forward/reverse information, battery information, fuel information, tire information, vehicle lamp information, vehicle interior temperature information, vehicle interior humidity information, steering wheel rotation angle information, vehicle external illumination, pressure applied to an accelerator pedal, and pressure applied to a brake pedal.
  • The sensing unit 125 may further include, for example, an accelerator pedal sensor, a pressure sensor, an engine speed sensor, an Air Flow-rate Sensor (AFS), an Air Temperature Sensor (ATS), a Water Temperature Sensor (WTS), a Throttle Position Sensor (TPS), a Top Dead Center (TDC) sensor, and a Crank Angle Sensor (CAS).
  • Meanwhile, the position information module 114 may be arranged as a subcomponent of the sensing unit 125.
  • The sensing unit 125 may include an object sensing unit capable of sensing an object around the vehicle 100. Here, the object sensing unit may include a camera module, a radar, Lidar, or an ultrasonic sensor. In this case, the sensing unit 125 may sense a front object located at the front of the vehicle 100 or a rear object located at the rear of the vehicle 100 using the camera module, the radar, the Lidar, or the ultrasonic sensor.
  • Meanwhile, in some embodiments, the object sensing unit may be sorted as a constituent component of the driver assistance apparatus 400.
  • The memory 130 is electrically connected to the controller 170. The memory 130 may store basic data for each unit, control data for the operation control of the unit, and input/output data. The memory 130 may be any of various storage devices, such as a ROM, a RAM, an EPROM, a flash drive, and a hard drive. The memory 130 may store various data for the overall operation of the vehicle 100, such as programs for the processing or control of the controller 170.
  • The output unit 140 is configured to output information processed in the controller 170. The output unit 140 may include a display device 141, a sound output unit 142, and a haptic output unit 143.
  • The display device 141 may display various graphic objects. For example, the display device 141 may display vehicle associated information. Here, the vehicle associated information may include vehicle control information for the direct control of the vehicle 100 or driver assistance information to guide the driver's vehicle driving. In addition, the vehicle associated information may include vehicle state information that indicates the current state of the vehicle or vehicle traveling information regarding the traveling of the vehicle.
  • The display device 141 may include at least one selected from among a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), a Thin Film Transistor LCD (TFT LCD), an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED), a flexible display, a 3D display, and an e-ink display.
  • The display device 141 may configure an inter-layer structure with a touch sensor, or may be integrally formed with the touch sensor to implement a touchscreen. The touchscreen may function as the user input unit 124, which provides an input interface between the vehicle 100 and the user, and also function to provide an output interface between the vehicle 100 and the user. In this case, the display device 141 may include a touch sensor for sensing a touch to the display device 141 so as to receive a control command in a touch manner. When a touch is input to the display device 141 as described above, the touch sensor may sense the touch and the controller 170 may generate a control command corresponding to the touch. Content input in a touch manner may be characters or numbers, or may be, for example, instructions in various modes or menu items that may be designated.
  • Meanwhile, the display device 141 may include a cluster for allowing the driver to check vehicle state information or vehicle traveling information while driving the vehicle. The cluster may be located on a dashboard. In this case, the driver may check information displayed on the cluster while looking forward.
  • Meanwhile, in some embodiments, the display device 141 may be implemented as a Head Up display (HUD). When the display device 141 is implemented as a HUD, information may be output via a transparent display provided at the front windshield 10. Alternatively, the display device 141 may include a projector module to output information via an image projected to the front windshield 10.
  • Meanwhile, in some embodiments, the display device 141 may include a transparent display. In this case, the transparent display may be attached to the front windshield 10.
  • The transparent display may display a prescribed screen with a prescribed transparency. In order to achieve the transparency, the transparent display may include at least one selected from among a transparent Thin Film Electroluminescent (TFEL) display, an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display, a transparent Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), a transmissive transparent display, and a transparent LED display. The transparency of the transparent display is adjustable.
  • In some embodiments, the display device 141 may function as a navigation device.
  • The sound output unit 142 is configured to convert electrical signals from the controller 170 into audio signals and to output the audio signals. To this end, the sound output unit 142 may include, for example, a speaker. The sound output unit 142 may output sound corresponding to the operation of the user input unit 124.
  • The haptic output unit 143 is configured to generate tactile output. For example, the haptic output unit 143 may operate to vibrate a steering wheel, a safety belt, or a seat so as to allow the user to recognize an output thereof.
  • The vehicle drive unit 150 may control the operation of various devices of the vehicle 100. The vehicle drive unit 150 may include a power source drive unit 151, a steering drive unit 152, a brake drive unit 153, a lamp drive unit 154, an air conditioner drive unit 155, a window drive unit 156, an airbag drive unit 157, a sunroof drive unit 158, and a suspension drive unit 159.
  • The power source drive unit 151 may perform electronic control for a power source inside the vehicle 100.
  • For example, when a fossil fuel based engine (not illustrated) is a power source, the power source drive unit 151 may perform electronic control for the engine. As such, the power source drive unit 151 may control, for example, an output torque of the engine. When the power source drive unit 151 is the engine, the power source drive unit 151 may limit the speed of the vehicle by controlling the output torque of the engine under the control of the controller 170.
  • In another example, when an electric motor (not illustrated) is a power source, the power source drive unit 151 may perform control for the motor. As such, the power source drive unit 151 may control, for example, the RPM and torque of the motor.
  • The steering drive unit 152 may perform electronic control for a steering apparatus inside the vehicle 100. As such, the steering drive unit 152 may change the direction of travel of the vehicle 100.
  • The brake drive unit 153 may perform electronic control of a brake apparatus (not illustrated) inside the vehicle 100. For example, the brake drive unit 153 may reduce the speed of the vehicle 100 by controlling the operation of brakes located at wheels. In another example, the brake drive unit 153 may adjust the direction of travel of the vehicle 100 leftward or rightward by differentiating the operation of respective brakes located at left and right wheels.
  • The lamp drive unit 154 may turn at least one lamp arranged inside and outside the vehicle 100 on or off. In addition, the lamp drive unit 154 may control, for example, the intensity and direction of light of the lamp. For example, the lamp drive unit 154 may perform control for a turn-signal lamp, a headlamp or a brake lamp.
  • The air conditioner drive unit 155 may perform the electronic control of an air conditioner (not illustrated) inside the vehicle 100. For example, when the interior temperature of the vehicle 100 is high, the air conditioner drive unit 155 may operate the air conditioner to supply cold air to the interior of the vehicle 100.
  • The window drive unit 156 may perform the electronic control of a window apparatus inside the vehicle 100. For example, the window drive unit 156 may control the opening or closing of left and right windows of the vehicle 100.
  • The airbag drive unit 157 may perform the electronic control of an airbag apparatus inside the vehicle 100. For example, the airbag drive unit 157 may control an airbag to be deployed in a dangerous situation.
  • The sunroof drive unit 158 may perform electronic control of a sunroof apparatus (not illustrated) inside the vehicle 100. For example, the sunroof drive unit 158 may control the opening or closing of a sunroof.
  • The suspension drive unit 159 may perform the electronic control for a suspension apparatus (not illustrated) inside the vehicle 100. For example, when the road surface is uneven, the suspension drive unit may control the suspension apparatus to reduce vibration of the vehicle 100.
  • Meanwhile, in some embodiments, the vehicle drive unit 150 may include a chassis drive unit. Here, the chassis drive unit may include the steering drive unit 152, the brake drive unit 153, and the suspension drive unit 159.
  • The controller 170 may control the overall operation of each unit inside the vehicle 100. The controller 170 may be referred to as an Electronic Control Unit (ECU).
  • The controller 170 may be implemented in a hardware manner using at least one selected from among Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), Digital Signal Processors (DSPs), Digital Signal Processing Devices (DSPDs), Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs), Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), processors, controllers, micro-controllers, microprocessors, and electric units for the implementation of other functions.
  • The interface unit 180 may serve as a passage for various kinds of external devices that are connected to the vehicle 100. For example, the interface unit 180 may have a port that is connectable to a mobile terminal and may be connected to the mobile terminal via the port. In this case, the interface unit 180 may exchange data with the mobile terminal.
  • Meanwhile, the interface unit 180 may serve as a passage for supplying electricity to a mobile terminal connected thereto. When the mobile terminal is electrically connected to the interface unit 180, the interface unit 180 may provide electricity supplied from the power supply unit 190 to the mobile terminal under the control of the controller 170.
  • The power supply unit 190 may supply power required to operate the respective components under the control of the controller 170. In particular, the power supply unit 190 may receive power from, for example, a battery (not illustrated) inside the vehicle 100.
  • The driver assistance apparatus 400 may assist the driver in driving the vehicle 100. The driver assistance apparatus 400 may include the vehicle camera 200.
  • The vehicle camera 200 may include the mono camera 200a illustrated in FIGs. 3 to 5 and the stereo camera 200b illustrated in FIGs. 6 to 8.
  • The vehicle camera 200 may include a variable lens 300. The following description will be given based on the driver assistance apparatus 400, the vehicle camera 200, and the variable lens 300.
  • The vehicle camera 200 may be referred to as a vehicle camera device.
  • FIG. 3 is a perspective view illustrating a vehicle camera in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view illustrating the vehicle camera in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 5 is a cutaway side sectional view illustrating the vehicle camera taken along line A-B of FIG. 3 in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention.
  • The vehicle camera 200 described below with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 is the mono camera 200a.
  • The vehicle camera 200a may include a lens 211, an image sensor 214, the variable lens 300, and a processor 470.
  • In some embodiments, the vehicle camera 200a may further include a processing board 220, a light shield 230, a heat radiation member 240, and a housing 250 individually or in combinations thereof.
  • Meanwhile, the housing 250 may include a first housing 251, a second housing 252, and a third housing 253.
  • The lens 211 may be fastened using a nut 212 so as to be seated in a hole 219 formed in a portion of the first housing 251 while being received in a lens housing 217.
  • The image sensor 214 may include at least one photoelectric conversion element capable of converting optical signals into electrical signals. For example, the image sensor 214 may be a Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) or a Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS).
  • The image sensor 214 may be located at an appropriate position on the exterior or interior of the vehicle 100 in order to acquire an image of the view outside or inside the vehicle 100.
  • For example, the image sensor 214 may be located in the passenger compartment of the vehicle 100 so as to be close to the front windshield 10 in order to acquire an image of the view to the front of the vehicle 100. Alternatively, the image sensor 214 may be located near a front bumper or a radiator grill.
  • For example, the image sensor 214 may be located in the passenger compartment of the vehicle 100 so as to be close to a rear windshield in order to acquire an image of the view to the rear of the vehicle 100. Alternatively, the image sensor 214 may be located near a rear bumper, a trunk, or a tail gate.
  • For example, the image sensor 214 may be located in the passenger compartment of the vehicle 100 so as to be close to at least one side window in order to acquire an image of the view to the lateral side of the vehicle 100. Alternatively, the image sensor 214 may be located near a side mirror, a fender, or a door.
  • The image sensor 214 may be located at the rear of the lens 211 so as to acquire an image based on light introduced through the lens 211. For example, the image sensor 214 may be oriented perpendicular to the ground surface at a position spaced apart from the lens 211 by a prescribed distance.
  • The variable lens 300 may change light to be introduced into the image sensor 214. The variable lens 300 may change the light to be introduced into the image sensor 214 so as to change the focal distance of the camera 200a.
  • The variable lens 300 may include liquid crystals. The variable lens 300 may change the light to be introduced into the image sensor 214 based on the arrangement of liquid crystals. For example, the variable lens 300 may change the path of light to be introduced into the image sensor 214 by way of the variable lens 300, thereby changing the focal distance of the camera 200a.
  • The variable lens 300 may be controlled by the processor 470.
  • The variable lens 300 will be described below in detail with reference to FIG. 8 and the following drawings.
  • A module including the lens 211, the variable lens 300, and the image sensor 214 may be referred to as an image acquisition module. The image acquisition module may be installed to the ceiling of the vehicle 100. For example, the image acquisition module may be attached to the inner ceiling of the vehicle 100 with a prescribed connection member interposed therebetween. Positioning the image acquisition module on the inner ceiling of the vehicle 100 provides an advantage of acquiring an image of the view outside the vehicle 100 from the highest position of the vehicle 100. That is, there is an advantage of increasing the field of vision.
  • The processor 470 may be electrically connected to the image sensor 214 and the variable lens 300. The processor 470 may perform computer processing on an image acquired via the image sensor 214. The processor 470 may control the image sensor 214 and the variable lens 300.
  • The processor 470 may be implemented using at least one selected from among Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), Digital Signal Processors (DSPs), Digital Signal Processing Devices (DSPDs), Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs), Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), processors, controllers, micro-controllers, microprocessors, and electric units for the implementation of other functions.
  • The processor 470 may be mounted on the processing board 220.
  • The processing board 220 may be configured so that the processor 470 and a memory 440 are mounted thereon.
  • The processing board 220 may be inclined in the overall length direction. For example, the processing board 220 may be oriented such that the front surface or the rear surface thereof faces the front windshield 10. For example, the processing board 220 may be arranged parallel to the front windshield 10.
  • The front windshield 10 included in the vehicle 100 is generally inclined from the bonnet to the roof of the vehicle 100 at a prescribed angle relative to the ground surface. In this case, when the processing board 220 is inclined in the overall length direction, the vehicle camera 200a may have a smaller size than when the processing board 220 is oriented vertically or horizontally. The vehicle camera 200a having a reduced size provides an advantage of increasing the available space inside the vehicle 100 in proportion to the reduction in the size of the vehicle camera 200a.
  • A plurality of elements or electronic components may be mounted on the processing board 220. At this time, heat may be generated due to the elements or components included in the processing board 220.
  • The processing board 220 may be spaced apart from the image sensor 214. When the processing board 220 is spaced apart from the image sensor 214, it is possible to prevent the heat generated from the processing board 220 from having a negative effect on the performance of the image sensor 214.
  • The processing board 220 may be located at an optimal position so as to prevent the heat generated in the processing board 220 from having an effect on the image sensor 214. Specifically, the processing board 220 may be located underneath the image sensor 214. Alternatively, the processing board 220 may be located at the front of the image sensor 214.
  • One or more memories 440 may be mounted on the processing board 220. The memories 440 may store images acquired via the image sensor 214, various application data, data for the control of the processor 470, or data processed by the processor 470. The memories 440 are a major source of heat generation, like the processor 470. When the processor 470 is located at the center of the processing board 220, the memories 440 may be located around the processor 470. For example, the memories 440 may be arranged to surround the periphery of the processor 470. In this case, the processor 470 and the memories 440, which are heat generation elements, may be located at the farthest positions from the image sensor 214.
  • The processor 470 may be electrically connected to the controller 170. The processor 470 may be controlled by the controller 170.
  • The light shield 230 may be located at the front of the lens 211. The light shield 230 may prevent light that is not necessary for image acquisition from being introduced into the lens 211. For example, the light shield 230 may block light reflected from, for example, the windshield 10 or the dashboard of the vehicle 100. In addition, the light shield 230 may block light generated from an undesired light source.
  • The light shield 230 may have a screen shape. For example, the light shield 230 may take the form of a lower screen.
  • Meanwhile, the shape of the light shield 230 may be changed depending on the vehicle model. For example, the light shield 230 may have a shape corresponding to the model of the vehicle to which the vehicle camera 200a is installed because the curvature of the windshield and the angle between the windshield and the ground surface may be different for different vehicle models. To this end, the light shield 230 may have a separable structure.
  • The heat radiation member 240 may be located at the rear of the image sensor 214. The heat radiation member 240 may come into contact with the image sensor 214 or an image sensor board on which the image sensor 214 is mounted. The heat radiation member 240 may handle the heat from the image sensor 214.
  • As described above, the image sensor 214 is sensitive to heat. The heat radiation member 240 may be located between the image sensor 214 and the third housing 253. The heat radiation member 240 may be located so as to come into contact with the image sensor 214 and the third housing 253. In this case, the heat radiation member 240 may radiate heat through the third housing 253.
  • For example, the heat radiation member 240 may be any one of a thermal pad and thermal grease.
  • The housing 250 may include the lens housing 217, the first housing 251, the second housing 252, and the third housing 253.
  • The lens housing 217 may receive at least one lens 211, and may protect the lens 211 from external shocks.
  • The first housing 251 may be formed so as to surround the image sensor 214. The first housing 251 may have the hole 291. The lens 211 received in the lens housing 217 may be connected to the image sensor 214 while being seated in the hole 219.
  • The first housing 251 may be gradually increased in thickness with decreasing distance to the image sensor 214. For example, the first housing 251 may be formed via die casting. In this case, in order to prevent deterioration in the performance of the image sensor 214 due to heat, a portion of the first housing 251 close to the image sensor 214 may be thicker than the remaining portion of the first housing 251.
  • The thickness of the first housing 251 may be greater than the thickness of the third housing 253. The thicker housing transfers heat more slowly. Therefore, when the thickness of the first housing 251 is greater than the thickness of the third housing 253, heat generated inside the vehicle camera 200a may be radiated outward through the third housing 253, rather than the first housing 251, which is located close to the front windshield 10 and thus has difficulty in radiating heat.
  • Meanwhile, in some embodiments, the lens housing 217 and the first housing 251 may be integrally formed with each other.
  • The second housing 252 may be located at the front end of the processing board 220. The second housing 252 may be fastened to the first housing 251 and the third housing 253 via prescribed fasteners.
  • The second housing 252 may include an attachment member to which the light shield 230 may be attached. The light shield 230 may be attached to the second housing 252 via the attachment member.
  • The first and second housings 252 and 253 may be formed of a synthetic resin material.
  • The third housing 253 may be fastened to the first housing 251 and the second housing 252 via prescribed fasteners. In some embodiments, the first to third housings 251, 252 and 253 may be integrally formed with one another.
  • The third housing 253 may be formed so as to surround the processing board 220. The third housing 253 may be located at the rear end or the lower end of the processing board 220. The third housing 253 may be formed of a thermally conductive material. For example, the third housing 253 may be formed of a metal such as aluminum. The third housing 253 formed of a thermally conductive material may achieve efficient heat radiation.
  • When the first and second housings 251 and 252 are formed of a synthetic resin material and the third housing 253 is formed of a thermally conductive material, heat inside the vehicle camera 200a may be radiated from the third housing 253, rather than the first and second housings 251 and 252. That is, when the vehicle camera 200a is mounted on the windshield 10, the first and second housings 251 and 252 are located close to the windshield 10, and therefore the heat cannot be radiated through the first and second housings 251 and 252. In this case, the heat may be efficiently radiated through the third housing 253.
  • Meanwhile, when the third housing 253 is formed of aluminum, this may be advantageous to protect components located in the third housing 253 (e.g. the image sensor 214 and the processor 470) from Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC) and Electrostatic Discharge (ESC).
  • The third housing 253 may come into contact with the processing board 220. In this case, the third housing 253 may effectively radiate heat outward by transferring the heat through the portion thereof in contact with the processing board 220.
  • The third housing 253 may further include a heat radiator 291. For example, the heat radiator 291 may include at least one selected from among a heat sink, a heat radiation fin, a thermal pad, and thermal grease.
  • The heat radiator 291 may outwardly radiate heat generated inside the vehicle camera 200a. For example, the heat radiator 291 may be located between the processing board 220 and the third housing 253. The heat radiator 291 may come into contact with the processing board 220 and the third housing 253 so as to outwardly radiate heat generated in the processing board 220.
  • The third housing 253 may further include an air discharge hole. The air discharge hole is a hole for discharging high-temperature air inside the vehicle camera 200a to the outside of the vehicle camera 200a. An air flow structure may be provided inside the vehicle camera 200a so as to be connected to the air discharge hole. The air discharge hole may guide the high-temperature air inside the vehicle camera 200a to the air discharge hole.
  • The vehicle camera 200a may further include a damp-proof member. The damp-proof member may take the form of a patch and may be attached to the air discharge hole. The damp-proof member may be a Gore-Tex damp-proof member. The damp-proof member may discharge moisture inside the vehicle camera 200a to the outside. In addition, the damp-proof member may prevent moisture outside the vehicle camera 200a from being introduced into the vehicle camera 200a.
  • FIG. 6 is a perspective view illustrating a vehicle camera in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7 is an exploded perspective view illustrating the vehicle camera in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 8 is a cutaway side sectional view illustrating the vehicle camera taken along line C-D of FIG. 6 in accordance with the embodiment of the present invention.
  • The vehicle camera 200 described below with reference to FIGs. 6 to 8 is the stereo camera 200b.
  • The description given in relation to the mono camera 200a with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be wholly applied to the stereo camera 200b. That is, each of first and second cameras included in the stereo camera 200b may be the camera described above with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5.
  • The stereo camera 200b may include a first lens 211a, a second lens 211 b, a first image sensor 214a, a second image sensor 214b, a left variable lens 300L, a right variable lens 300R, and a processor 470a.
  • In some embodiments, the vehicle camera 200b may further include a processing board 220a, a first light shield 230a, a second light shield 230b, and a housing 250a individually or in combinations thereof.
  • Meanwhile, the housing 250a may include a first lens housing 217a, a second lens housing 217b, a first housing 251a, a second housing 252a, and a third housing 253a.
  • The description given in relation to the lens 211 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the first lens 211a and the second lens 211b.
  • The description given in relation to the image sensor 214 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the first image sensor 214a and the second image sensor 214b.
  • The description in relation to the variable lens 300 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the left variable lens 300L and the right variable lens 300R.
  • In particular, the left variable lens 300L may include a first liquid crystal layer, and may change the light to be introduced into the first image sensor 214a based on the arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the first liquid crystal layer, which depends on the voltage applied thereto. The left variable lens 300L may be referred to as a first variable lens.
  • The right variable lens 300R may include a second liquid crystal layer, and may change the light to be introduced into the second image sensor 214b based on the arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the second liquid crystal layer, which depends on the voltage applied thereto. The right variable lens 300R may be referred to as a second variable lens.
  • Meanwhile, a module including the first lens 211a, the first image sensor 214a, and the left variable lens 300L may be referred to as a first image acquisition module. In addition, a module including the second lens 211 b, the second image sensor 214b, and the right variable lens 300R may be referred to as a second image acquisition module.
  • The processor 470a may be electrically connected to the first image sensor 214a, the second image sensor 214b, the left variable lens 300L, and the right variable lens 300R. The processor 470a may perform computer processing on images acquired via the first image sensor 214a and the second image sensor 214b. At this time, the processor 470 may form a disparity map or perform disparity calculation based on the images acquired via the first image sensor 214a and the second image sensor 214b.
  • The processor 470a may be implemented using at least one selected from among Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), Digital Signal Processors (DSPs), Digital Signal Processing Devices (DSPDs), Programmable Logic Devices (PLDs), Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), processors, controllers, micro-controllers, microprocessors, and electric units for the implementation of other functions.
  • The processor 470a may be mounted on the processing board 220a.
  • The description given in relation to the processing board 220 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the processing board 220a.
  • The description given in relation to the light shield 230 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the first light shield 230a and the second light shield 230b.
  • The description given in relation to the lens housing 217 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the first lens housing 217a and the second lens housing 217b.
  • The description given in relation to the first housing 251 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the first housing 251a.
  • The description given in relation to the second housing 252 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the second housing 252a.
  • The description given in relation to the third housing 253 with reference to FIGs. 3 to 5 may be applied to the third housing 253a.
  • FIG. 9 is an enlarged cutaway side sectional view illustrating portion CR1 of FIG. 5 or portion CR2 of FIG. 8.
  • Referring to FIG. 9, the vehicle camera 200 may include the image sensor 214 and the variable lens 300.
  • The image sensor 214 may include a CCD or CMOS as described above.
  • The image sensor 214 may be located at the rear of the variable lens 300.
  • The variable lens 300 may be located at the front of the image sensor 214.
  • The variable lens 300 may include a liquid crystal layer. The variable lens 300 may change the light to be introduced to the image sensor 214 based on the arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the liquid crystal layer, which depends on the voltage applied thereto, under the control of the processor 470.
  • For example, the variable lens 300 may refract the light to be introduced to the image sensor 214. In this case, the variable lens 300 may change the focal distance. The variable lens may perform various lens functions under the control of the processor 470.
  • For example, the variable lens 300 may include a wetting lens, a Graded Refractive Index (GRIN) lens or a Fresnel lens.
  • The wetting lens may change the introduced light by varying a polar material using the potential difference of the electricity applied to the lens.
  • The GRIN lens or the Fresnel lens may include a liquid crystal layer and may change the introduced light based on the arrangement of liquid crystals included in the liquid crystal layer, which depends on the application of electricity thereto.
  • The variable lens 300 may be configured to be slidably moved in the left-right direction (e.g. in the overall width direction). The vehicle camera 200 may include an actuator and a drive power transmission unit.
  • For example, the actuator may include a motor. The drive power transmission unit may include at least one gear.
  • The actuator may generate drive power under the control of the processor 470. The drive power generated in the actuator may be transmitted to the variable lens 300 via the drive power transmission unit through conversion from rotation to linear movement. The variable lens 300 may be slidably moved in the left-right direction (e.g. in the overall width direction) upon receiving drive power.
  • The variable lens 300 may be configured to be slidably moved in the front-rear direction (e.g. in the overall length direction). The vehicle camera 200 may include the actuator and the drive power transmission unit.
  • For example, the actuator may include a motor. The drive power transmission unit may include at least one gear.
  • The actuator may generate drive power under the control of the processor 470. The drive power generated in the actuator may be transmitted to the variable lens 300 via the drive power transmission unit through conversion from rotation to linear movement. The variable lens 300 may be slidably moved in the front-rear direction (e.g. in the overall length direction) upon receiving drive power.
  • In this way, the variable lens 300 may cope with blurring by sliding in the front-rear direction as the focal distance is changed.
  • The variable lens 300 may be configured to be rotatably moved. The vehicle camera 200 may include the actuator and the drive power transmission unit.
  • For example, the actuator may include a motor. The drive power transmission unit may include at least one gear.
  • The actuator may generate drive power under the control of the processor 470. The drive power generated in the actuator may be transmitted to the variable lens 300 via the drive power transmission unit. The variable lens may be rotated and moved forward upon receiving the drive power.
  • When the variable lens 300 is configured to be slidably or rotatably moved as described above, the variable lens 300 may be used as needed, and may not be used by being slidably or rotatably moved when it is not necessary.
  • In some embodiments, the vehicle camera 200 may further include one or more lenses 211. Although FIG. 9 illustrates four lenses 211 including a first lens 211a, a second lens 211b, a third lens 211c and a fourth lens 211d, the number of lenses may be changed in some embodiments.
  • The lenses 211 may be located between the variable lens 300 and the image sensor 214. The lenses 211 may refract introduced light. The light refracted via the lenses 211 may be introduced to the image sensor 214.
  • In some embodiments, the vehicle camera 200 may further include the housing 250. The housing 250 may include the lens housing 217, the first housing 251, the second housing 252, and the third housing 253.
  • The housing 250 may define the external appearance of the vehicle camera 200, and may receive the respective components of the vehicle camera 200 including the image sensor 214 and the variable lens 300.
  • The housing 250 may include a holder 1010. Although FIG. 9 illustrates the holder 1010 as being formed on the lens housing 217, the holder 1010 may be formed on the first housing 251 in some embodiments.
  • The holder 1010 may support the variable lens 300. The holder 1010 may include an upper holder 1010U for supporting the upper end of the variable lens 300 and a lower holder 1010L for supporting the lower end of the variable lens 300.
  • In some embodiments, the vehicle camera 200 may further include a hot wire. The hot wire may supply heat to the variable lens 300 under the control of the processor 470.
  • Liquid crystals are sensitive to the surrounding temperature. Variable lenses that include liquid crystals are vulnerable to the surrounding temperature, particularly low temperatures. The variable lens 300 included in the vehicle camera 200 should be made in consideration of thermal properties of liquid crystals in order to cope with driving during the winter or driving in very cold areas. When the vehicle camera 200 includes a hot wire as in the present embodiment, the effect of operating the variable lens 300 normally may be realized even in such low-temperature driving situations.
  • Meanwhile, the hot wire may be referred to as a heat supply unit.
  • The hot wire may be formed inside the holder 1010. The hot wire may be formed inside at least one of the upper holder 1010U and the lower holder 1010L.
  • The holder 1010 and the hot wire formed inside the holder 1010 will be described below with reference to FIGs. 10A to 10C.
  • FIGs. 10A to 11 are enlarged side views illustrating portion HS of FIG. 9, which are referenced to describe various embodiments of the holder and the hot wire provided inside the holder.
  • Although the upper holder 1010U will be described by way of example with reference to FIGs. 10A to 11, a description related to the upper holder 1010U may be applied to the lower holder 1010L because the lower holder 1010L has the same function and configuration as those of the upper holder 1010U except the difference in the portion thereof for supporting the variable lens 300.
  • Referring to FIGs. 10A to 11, the holder 1010 may include a slot 1020.
  • The slot 1020 may receive a portion of the variable lens 300. For example, the slot 1020 included in the upper holder 1010U may receive an upper portion of the variable lens 300. The slot 1020 included in the lower holder 1010L may receive a lower portion of the variable lens 300.
  • Hot wires 1051 and 1052 may be formed inside the slot 1020.
  • The hot wires 1051 and 1052 may be spaced apart from the variable lens 300. In this case, it is possible to prevent damage to the variable lens 300 that may occur when the hot wires 1051 and 1052 come into contact with the variable lens 300. Heat generated from the hot wires 1051 and 1052 may be transferred to the variable lens 300 via radiation.
  • In some embodiments, as exemplarily illustrated in FIG. 10B, a hot wire 1053 may come into contact with at least a portion of the rim of the variable lens 300. In this case, heat generated from the hot wire 1053 may be transferred to the variable lens 300 via conduction, which enables the efficient and direct transfer of heat.
  • The holder 1010 may include a first fixing portion 1031 and a second fixing portion 1032.
  • The first fixing portion 1031 may support a first surface 301 of the variable lens 300. The first surface 301 may be the surface facing the front side of the vehicle.
  • The first fixing portion 1031 may include a first separated portion 1031a and a first contact portion 1031b.
  • The first separated portion 1031a may extend upward or downward from a base 1025. The first separated portion 1031a may be spaced apart from the variable lens 300, rather than coming into contact with the variable lens 300. A cavity may be formed between the first separated portion 1031a and the variable lens 300.
  • The first contact portion 1031b may extend from the first separated portion 1031a toward the rear side of the vehicle 100. The first contact portion 1031b may come into contact with a portion of the first surface 301 of the variable lens 300. The first contact portion 1031b may support the variable lens 300 in conjunction with a second contact portion 1032b, so as to fix the variable lens 300.
  • The second fixing portion 1032 may support a second surface 302 of the variable lens 300. The second surface 302 may be the surface facing the rear side of the vehicle.
  • The second fixing portion 1032 may include a second separated portion 1032a and the second contact portion 1032b.
  • The second separated portion 1032a may extend upward or downward from the base 1025. The second separated portion 1032a may be spaced apart from the variable lens 300, rather than coming into contact with the variable lens 300. A cavity may be formed between the second separated portion 1032a and the variable lens 300.
  • The second contact portion 1032b may extend from the second separated portion 1032a toward the front side of the vehicle 100. The second contact portion 1032b may be symmetrical to the first contact portion 1031b about the variable lens 300. The second contact portion 1032b may support the variable lens 300 in conjunction with the first contact portion 1031b, so as to fix the variable lens 300.
  • The slot 1020 may be formed between the first fixing portion 1031 and the second fixing portion 1032.
  • The first hot wire 1051 and the second hot wire 1052 may be provided.
  • The first hot wire 1051 may be formed on a portion of the first fixing portion 1031.
  • The first hot wire 1051 may be located between the first fixing portion 1031 and the variable lens 300. Specifically, the first hot wire 1051 may be located between the first fixing portion 1031 and the first surface 301 of the variable lens 300.
  • The first hot wire 1051 may be spaced apart from the variable lens 300. Specifically, the first hot wire 1051 may be spaced apart from the first surface 301 of the variable lens 300.
  • The second hot wire 1052 may be located between the second fixing portion 1032 and the variable lens 300. Specifically, the second hot wire 1052 may be located between the second fixing portion 1032 and the second surface 302 of the variable lens 300.
  • The second hot wire 1052 may be spaced apart from the variable lens 300. Specifically, the second hot wire 1052 may be spaced apart from the second surface 302 of the variable lens 300.
  • In some embodiments, as illustrated in FIG. 11, the first fixing portion 1031 may include a first ridged portion 1061. For example, the first contact portion 1031b may include the first ridged portion 1061.
  • The first ridged portion 1061 may come into contact with at least a portion of the first surface 301. Specifically, the first ridged portion 1061 may include at least one ridge and at least one furrow. Here, the ridge may protrude toward the variable lens 300 so as to come into contact with the first surface 301 of the variable lens 300. The furrow may be indented away from the variable lens 300 so as to be spaced apart from the first surface 301 of the variable lens 300.
  • Through the provision of the ridge and the furrow as described above, it is possible to prevent damage to the variable lens 300 when supporting and fixing the variable lens 300. That is, although shocks may be applied to the vehicle camera 200 depending on the road conditions when the vehicle 100 is being driven, it is possible to reduce the application of shocks to the variable lens 300 upon the occurrence of such shocks.
  • The first hot wire 1051 may be formed on the first ridged portion 1061. Specifically, the first hot wire 1051 may be formed on the protrusion or in the furrow included in the first ridged portion 1061.
  • When the first hot wire 1051 is formed on the ridge, the first hot wire 1051 may come into contact with the first surface 301 of the variable lens 300 so that heat is transferred to the variable lens 300 via conduction. In this case, the efficient and direct transfer of heat is possible.
  • When the first hot wire 1051 is formed in the furrow, the first hot wire 1051 may be spaced apart from the first surface 301 of the variable lens 300 so that heat is transferred to the variable lens 300 via radiation. In this case, it is possible to prevent damage to the variable lens 300.
  • The second fixing portion 1032 may include a second ridged portion 1062. For example, the second contact portion 1032b may include the second ridged portion 1062.
  • The second ridged portion 1062 may come into contact with at least a portion of the second surface 302. Specifically, the second ridged portion 1062 may include at least one ridge and at least one furrow. Here, the ridge may protrude toward the variable lens 300 so as to come into contact with the second surface 302 of the variable lens 300. The furrow may be indented away from the variable lens 300 so as to be spaced apart from the second surface 302 of the variable lens 300.
  • Through the provision of the ridge and the furrow as described above, it is possible to prevent damage to the variable lens 300 when supporting and fixing the variable lens 300. That is, although shocks may be applied to the vehicle camera 200 depending on the road conditions when the vehicle 100 is being driven, it is possible to reduce the application of shocks to the variable lens 300 upon the occurrence of such shocks.
  • The second hot wire 1052 may be formed on the second ridged portion 1062. Specifically, the second hot wire 1052 may be formed on the protrusion or in the furrow included in the second ridged portion 1062.
  • When the second hot wire 1052 is formed on the ridge, the second hot wire 1052 may come into contact with the second surface 302 of the variable lens 300 so that heat is transferred to the variable lens 300 via conduction. In this case, the efficient and direct transfer of heat is possible.
  • When the second hot wire 1052 is formed in the furrow, the second hot wire 1052 may be spaced apart from the second surface 302 of the variable lens 300 so that heat is transferred to the variable lens 300 via radiation. In this case, it is possible to prevent damage to the variable lens 300.
  • FIG. 12 is a view referenced to describe the variable lens in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • Referring to FIG. 12, the variable lens 300 may include a first substrate 1210, a second substrate 1220, and a liquid crystal layer 1230.
  • The first substrate 1210 may include a first base substrate 1211, a plurality of first electrodes 1212, and an insulator film 1213.
  • The first electrodes 1212 may be formed on the first base substrate 1211. The first electrodes 1212 are spaced apart from one another by a prescribed distance. A voltage may be applied to the first electrodes 1212 under the control of the processor 470. For example, different levels of voltage may be respectively applied to each of the first electrodes 1212 under the control of the processor 470.
  • Meanwhile, the first electrodes 1212 may be transparent electrodes. For example, the first electrodes may be transparent Indium Tin Oxide (ITO) electrodes. When the first electrodes 1212 are transparent electrodes, the field of vision of the vehicle camera 200 may be achieved by preventing the electrodes from blocking the field of vision.
  • The insulator film 1213 may be formed on the first base substrate 1211 so as to cover the first electrodes 1212.
  • The second substrate 1220 may be disposed so as to face the first substrate 1210. The second substrate 1220 may include a second base substrate 1221 and a second electrode 1222.
  • The second electrode 1222 may be formed on the second base substrate 1221. The second electrode 1222 may be disposed so as to face the first electrodes 1212. A voltage may be applied to the second electrode 1222 under the control of the processor 470. A constant level of voltage may be applied to the second electrode 1222 under the control of the processor 470.
  • Meanwhile, the second electrode 1222 may be a transparent electrode. For example, the second electrode 1222 may be a transparent ITO electrode. When the second electrode 1222 is a transparent electrode, the field of vision of the vehicle camera 200 may be achieved by preventing the electrodes from blocking the field of vision.
  • The liquid crystal layer 1230 may be disposed between the first substrate 1210 and the second substrate 1220. The liquid crystal layer 1230 may include a plurality of liquid crystal molecules 1231. The liquid crystal molecules 1231 may be driven from the horizontal direction to the vertical direction at a prescribed angle corresponding to the magnitude of a voltage applied thereto. The focal point of the variable lens 300 may be changed due to the prescribed angle of the liquid crystal molecules 1231 under the control of the processor 470.
  • The variable lens 300 may further include a first transparent plate and a second transparent plate. The first transparent plate may be disposed outside the first substrate 1210. The second transparent plate may be disposed outside the second substrate 1220. The transparent plate may be referred to as glass.
  • FIG. 13 is a view referenced to describe the first substrate in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 13 illustrates the first substrate 1210 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, which is viewed from the top side thereof.
  • Referring to FIG. 13, the first substrate (see reference numeral 1210 in FIG. 12) may include a plurality of first electrodes 1212a to 1212i. The first electrodes 1212a to 1212i may be spaced apart from one another by a prescribed distance. The first electrodes 1212a to 1212i may be arranged in the up-down direction or in the left-right direction. Here, the up-down direction may mean the overall height direction or the vertical direction. The left-right direction may mean the overall width direction or the horizontal direction.
  • FIG. 13 illustrates the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i arranged so as to extend in the up-down direction.
  • When the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i are arranged so as to extend in the up-down direction as described above, the Field Of View (FOV) in the left-right direction may be widened.
  • As the number of first electrodes 1212a to 1212i is increased, the FOV in the left-right direction may be gradually widened.
  • The variable lens 300 may further include a drive unit. The drive unit may apply a voltage to the respective first electrodes 1212a to 1212i or the second electrode 1222. The drive unit is electrically connected to the processor 470. The drive unit may be connected to the processor 470 via an FPCB or a cable.
  • In some embodiments, a plurality of drive units may be provided. For example, the drive units may include a first drive unit 1315 and a second drive unit.
  • The first drive unit 1315 may include an Integrated Circuit (IC). The first drive unit 1315 may apply a voltage to the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i upon receiving a signal from the processor 470. The first drive unit 1315 may apply a constant level of voltage to the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i. Alternatively, the first drive unit 1315 may apply different levels of voltage to each of the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i.
  • The second drive unit may include an IC. The second drive unit may apply a voltage to the second electrode 1222 upon receiving a signal from the processor 470. The second drive unit may apply a constant level of voltage to the second electrode 1222.
  • The first substrate 1210 may include a hot wire 1310'. The hot wire 1310' may be disposed on the first base substrate 1211. For example, the hot wire 1310' may be disposed along the rim of the first base substrate 1211. With this arrangement of the hot wire 1310, the field of vision of the vehicle camera 200 may be achieved without blocking the field of vision due to the hot wire 1310'.
  • The hot wire 1310' may supply heat to the variable lens 300. Specifically, the hot wire 1310' may supply heat to the liquid crystal layer 1230.
  • Meanwhile, the second substrate 1220 may include a hot wire. The hot wire may be disposed on the second base substrate 1221.
  • FIGs. 14A to 14C are views referenced to describe an operation in which different levels of voltage are respectively applied to each of the first electrodes in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • Referring to FIG. 14A, the processor 470 may control the levels of voltage 1410 respectively applied to each of the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i by controlling the first drive unit (see reference numeral 1310 in FIG. 13). The arrangement 1420 of the liquid crystal molecules 1231 included in the liquid crystal layer 1230 may be converted so as to correspond to the levels of voltage applied to the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i.
  • As exemplarily illustrated in FIG. 14B, the processor 470 may control the first drive unit 1315 so that a constant level of voltage 1430 is applied to the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i.
  • In this case, the liquid crystal molecules 1231 included in the liquid crystal layer 1230 may have the arrangement 1440 for transmitting light introduced from the outside, rather than refracting the light. The arrangement of the liquid crystal molecules 1231 illustrated in FIG. 14B is merely given by way of example, and the arrangement may be changed according to the kind of liquid crystals.
  • In this case, the variable lens 300 may have a reduced FOV and an increased focal distance, thus functioning as a telephoto lens. In this case, the variable lens 300 may be used to detect, and track an object located a long distance away from the vehicle 100.
  • As exemplarily illustrated in FIG. 14C, the processor 470 may control the first drive unit 1315 so that different levels of voltage 1450 are applied to the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i. Specifically, the processor 470 may control the first drive unit 1315 such that a higher level of voltage is applied to center electrodes 1212e and 1212f among the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i than that applied to outer peripheral electrodes 1212a and 1212j.
  • In this case, the liquid crystal molecules 1231 included in the liquid crystal layer 1230 may have an arrangement 1460 for refracting some or all of the light introduced from the outside. The arrangement of the liquid crystal molecules 1231 illustrated in FIG. 14C is merely given by way of example, and the arrangement may be changed according to the kind of liquid crystals.
  • In this case, the variable lens 300 may have an increased FOV and a reduced focal distance, thus functioning as a wide-angle lens. In this case, the variable lens 300 may be used to detect and track an object located a short distance away from the vehicle 100. In this case, the processor 470 may control the first drive unit 1315 so that the levels of voltage applied to the electrodes are symmetrical on the left side and the right side about the center electrodes 1212e and 1212f.
  • In some embodiments, the processor 470 may change the FOV or the focal distance by controlling the levels of voltage of the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i.
  • In some embodiments, the processor 470 may control the first drive unit 1315 so that the levels of voltage applied to the electrodes are symmetrical on the left side and the right side about the center electrodes 1212e and 1212f. In this case, the processor 470 may change the focal point of the variable lens 300 based on a Point of Interest (POI).
  • Meanwhile, the processor 470 may perform computer processing on an image acquired via the image sensor 214.
  • FIG. 15 is a view referenced to describe the arrangement of the first electrodes in the left-right direction in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • Referring to FIG. 15, the first substrate (see reference numeral 1210 in FIG. 12) may include the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i. Here, the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i may be arranged so as to extend in the left-right direction.
  • When the first electrodes 1212a to 1212i are arranged so as to extend in the left-right direction as described above, the Field Of View (FOV) in the up-down direction may be widened.
  • As the number of first electrodes 1212a to 1212i is increased, the FOV in the up-down direction may be gradually widened.
  • FIG. 16 is a view referenced to describe the arrangement of the first electrodes in the left-right direction and the up-down direction in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • Referring to FIG. 16, the first electrodes may be arranged so as to extend in the up-down direction and the left-right direction.
  • The first substrate 1210 may include the first electrodes 1212 and a plurality of capacitors 1610. Here, the first electrodes 1212 may be arranged so as to extend in the left-right direction and the up-down direction.
  • The capacitors 1610 may be located at respective intersections of the electrodes arranged so as to extend in the up-down direction and the electrodes arranged so as to extend in the left-right direction. The capacitors 1610 may prevent voltage drop that may occur at the intersections, thereby allowing a voltage to be applied to the respective first electrodes 1212 under the control of the controller 470.
  • Thin Film Transistors (TFTs) may be located between the intersections and the capacitors 1610. The TFTs may prevent reversed current.
  • FIGs. 17 and 18 are views referenced to describe a vehicle camera including a plurality of variable lenses in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 17 is a cutaway side view of the vehicle camera taken along line A-B of FIG. 3 or line C-D of FIG. 6 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • FIG. 18 is an enlarged cutaway side view of portion CR3 of FIG. 18.
  • The vehicle camera of FIGs. 17 and 18 differs from the vehicle camera described above with reference to FIGs. 1 to 17 in that it includes a first variable lens 300a and a second variable lens 300b. The above description, made with reference to FIGs. 1 to 16, may be applied to the other configurations of the vehicle camera 200 of FIGs. 17 and 18, excluding the provision of the variable lenses 300a and 300b.
  • In addition, the above description given in relation to the variable lens 300 with reference to FIGs. 1 to 16 may be applied to each of the first variable lens 300a and the second variable lens 300b.
  • The vehicle camera 200 may include the image sensor 214, the first variable lens 300a, the second variable lens 300b, and the processor 470.
  • The first variable lens 300a may include a first liquid crystal layer, and may change light to be introduced to the image sensor 214 based on the arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the first liquid crystal layer. The first variable lens 300a may be located at the front side of the image sensor 214 and the second variable lens 300b. The first variable lens 300a may change the light introduced from the outside.
  • The first variable lens 300a may include a first substrate, a second substrate, and the first liquid crystal layer.
  • The description given in relation to the variable lens 300 with reference to FIG. 12 may be applied to the first variable lens 300a.
  • In particular, a plurality of electrodes may be disposed on the first substrate included in the first variable lens 300a so as to be spaced apart from one another.
  • In some embodiments, the electrodes provided on the first substrate may be arranged so as to extend in the up-down direction. The number of electrodes provided on the first substrate may be greater than the number of electrodes provided on a third substrate. When the electrodes are arranged so as to extend in the up-down direction, an FOV in the left-right direction is widened. In an image acquired by the vehicle camera 200, information in the left-right direction may be more useful than information in the up-down direction. When the number of electrodes provided on the third substrate is greater than the number of electrodes provided on the first substrate, a greater number of pieces of information may be acquired in the up-down direction than that in the left-right direction.
  • In some embodiments, the electrodes provided on the first substrate may be arranged so as to extend in the left-right direction.
  • The second variable lens 300b may include a second liquid crystal layer, and may change light to be introduced to the image sensor 214 based on the arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the second liquid crystal layer, which depends on the voltage applied thereto. The second variable lens 300b may be located at the front side of the image sensor 214. The second variable lens 300a may change the light introduced through the first variable lens 300a.
  • The second variable lens 300b may include a third substrate, a fourth substrate, and the second liquid crystal layer.
  • The description given in relation to the variable lens 300 with reference to FIG. 12 may be applied to the second variable lens 300b.
  • In particular, a plurality of electrodes may be disposed on the third substrate included in the second variable lens 300b so as to be spaced apart from one another.
  • In some embodiments, the electrodes provided on the third substrate may be arranged so as to extend in the left-right direction.
  • In some embodiments, the electrodes provided on the third substrate may be arranged so as to extend in the up-down direction. The number of electrodes provided on the third substrate may be greater than the number of electrodes provided on the first substrate. When the electrodes are arranged so as to extend in the up-down direction, an FOV in the left-right direction is widened. In an image acquired by the vehicle camera 200, information in the left-right direction may be more useful than information in the up-down direction. When the number of electrodes provided on the third substrate is greater than the number of electrodes provided on the first substrate, a greater number of pieces of information may be acquired in the up-down direction than that in the left-right direction.
  • The image sensor 214 may receive the light introduced through the first variable lens 300a and the second variable lens 300b.
  • FIG. 19 is a view referenced to describe the variable lens included in the driver assistance apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
  • Referring to FIG. 40, the driver assistance apparatus 400 may include the camera 200 and the processor 470.
  • The camera 200 may include the image sensor 214 and the variable lens 300.
  • The variable lens 300 may change the light that is introduced into the image sensor 214 based on variation of the interface between polar fluid and non-polar fluid, which depends on the voltage applied thereto.
  • The variable lens 300 may be referred to as a wetting lens.
  • The variable lens 300 may include transparent plates 4011a and 4011b, a first material 4012, a second material 4013, a catalyst member 4014, an insulator member 4015, and a hydrophobic member 4016.
  • The variable lens 300 may have an approximately cylindrical shape.
  • The transparent plates 4011a and 4011b may be parallel to each other and may form the upper portion and the lower portion of the cylindrical variable lens 300. The transparent plates 4011a and 4011b may define a space therebetween. The transparent plates 4011a and 4011b may be formed of a hydrophilic material or may be coated with a hydrophilic material.
  • A drive unit may have a ring shape, and may form the outer peripheral surface of the variable lens 300. The drive unit may include the catalyst member 4014, the insulator member 4015, and the hydrophobic member 4016.
  • The catalyst member 4014 may be formed of platinum (Pt) or palladium (Pd). The catalyst member 4014 may function as a ground electrode.
  • The insulator member 4015 is formed between the catalyst member 4014 and the hydrophobic member 4016 and functions to insulate the catalyst member 4014, which functions as the ground function, from the hydrophobic member 4016, which receives power.
  • The hydrophobic member 4016 may be formed by coating the surface of the electrode with a hydrophobic material. The surface of the hydrophobic member 4016 may be changed to a hydrophilic surface by an electric field created between the hydrophobic member 4016 and the catalyst member 4014 when electricity is supplied.
  • The first material 4012 and the second material 4013 may be provided in the inner space of the variable lens 300. For example, the first material 4012 may be a polar material, such as water or liquid crystals. The second material 4013 may be a non-polar fluid.
  • The focal distance of the variable lens 300 may be changed by the potential difference of electricity supplied to both hydrophobic members 4016.
  • The present invention as described above may be implemented as code that can be written on a computer readable medium in which a program is recorded and thus read by a computer. The computer readable medium includes all kinds of recording devices in which data is stored in a computer readable manner. Examples of the computer readable recording medium may include a hard disk drive (HDD), a solid state disk (SSD), a silicon disk drive (SDD), a ROM, a RAM, a CD-ROM, a magnetic tape, a floppy disc, and an optical data storage device. In addition, the computer readable medium is implemented in a carrier wave (e.g., data transmission over the Internet). In addition, the computer may include the processor 470 or the controller 170. Thus, the above detailed description should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein in all terms and be considered by way of example.
  • As is apparent from the above description, the embodiments of the present invention provide one or more effects as follows.
  • First, the focal distance of a vehicle camera may be adjusted using a variable lens.
  • Second, the focal distance may be adjusted to suit a vehicle state or a driving situation.
  • Third, the focal distance may be appropriately adjusted to suit the purpose for which an advanced driver assistance system is used.
  • Fourth, the focal distance may be appropriately adjusted based on detected object information.
  • Fifth, through the adjustment of the focal distance, information corresponding to the situation may be provided, thus leading the safe driving of a driver.
  • Effects of the present invention should not be limited to the aforementioned effects and other not-mentioned effects will be clearly understood by those skilled in the art from the claims.

Claims (13)

  1. A vehicle camera (200) comprising:
    an image sensor (214);
    a variable lens (300) having a liquid crystal layer, the variable lens being configured to change light to be introduced into the image sensor based on an arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the liquid crystal layer, which depends on an applied voltage;
    a processor (470) configured to be electrically connected to the image sensor (214) and the variable lens (300);
    a housing (250) for defining an external appearance of the vehicle camera, the housing being configured to receive the image sensor and the variable lens, wherein the housing (250) includes a holder (1010) for supporting the variable lens; and
    a hot wire (1051, 1052) for supplying heat to the variable lens,
    wherein the holder (1010) includes:
    a first fixing portion (1031) for supporting a first surface of the variable lens, wherein the first fixing portion (1031) includes a first ridged portion (1061) including at least one ridge and at least one furrow for coming into contact with at least a portion of the first surface; and
    a second fixing portion (1032) for supporting a second surface of the variable lens, wherein the second fixing portion (1032) includes a second ridged portion (1062) including at least one ridge and at least one furrow for coming into contact with at least a portion of the second surface, and wherein the hot wire includes:
    a first hot wire (1051) formed on the first ridged portion (1061); and
    a second hot wire (1052) formed on the second ridged portion (1062).
  2. The vehicle camera (200) according to claim 1, further comprising at least one lens (211) located between the variable lens and the image sensor for refracting light to be introduced to the image sensor.
  3. The vehicle camera (200) according to claim 1 or 2,
    wherein a thickness of the housing (250) is gradually increased with decreasing distance to the image sensor.
  4. The vehicle camera (200) according to claim 3,
    wherein the holder (1010) includes a slot (1020) for receiving a portion of the variable lens, and wherein the hot wire (1051, 1052) is formed inside the slot (1020),
    and/or wherein the hot wire (1051, 1052) is spaced apart from the variable lens (300),
    and/or wherein the hot wire (1053) comes into contact with at least a portion of a rim of the variable lens (300).
  5. The vehicle camera (200) according to claim 4,
    wherein the slot (1020) is formed between the first fixing portion and the second fixing portion.
  6. The vehicle camera (200) according to any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the variable lens (300) is slidably movable or rotatably movable.
  7. The vehicle camera according to any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the variable lens (300) includes:
    a first substrate (1210); and
    a second substrate (1220) disposed so as to face the first substrate, and
    wherein the liquid crystal layer (1230) is disposed between the first substrate and the second substrate,
    wherein the first substrate (1210) includes a plurality of electrodes spaced apart from one another, the electrodes being arranged in an up-down direction or in a left-right direction,
    wherein the processor is configured to control a voltage level of a central electrode among the electrodes so as to be higher than a voltage level of an outer peripheral electrode among the electrodes.
  8. The vehicle camera (200) according to any one of claims 1 to 7, wherein the first substrate (1210) or the second substrate (1220) includes a hot wire (1310) for supplying heat to the variable lens.
  9. The vehicle camera (200) according to any one of claims 1 to 8,
    wherein the electrodes are arranged so as to extend in an up-down direction and a left-right direction, and
    wherein capacitors (1610) are located at intersections of the electrodes in the up-down direction and the electrodes in the left-right direction .
  10. The vehicle camera according to any one of claims 1 to 9, wherein the processor (470) processes an image acquired via the image sensor.
  11. The vehicle camera (200) according to any one of claims 1 to 10, wherein the variable lens (300) includes:
    a first variable lens (300a) having a first liquid crystal layer, the first variable lens being configured to change light to be introduced into the image sensor based on an arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the first liquid crystal layer, which depends on an applied voltage; and
    a second variable lens (300b) disposed between the image sensor and the first variable lens, the second variable lens having a second liquid crystal layer, the second variable lens being configured to change light to be introduced into the image sensor based on an arrangement of liquid crystal molecules included in the second liquid crystal layer, which depends on an applied voltage.
  12. The vehicle camera (200) according to claim 11, wherein the first variable lens includes a first substrate on which a plurality of electrodes is disposed so as to be spaced apart from one another, and
    wherein the second variable lens includes a third substrate on which a plurality of electrodes is disposed so as to be spaced apart from one another.
  13. The vehicle camera (200) according to claim 12, wherein the electrodes included in the first substrate are arranged so as to extend in an up-down direction, and
    wherein the electrodes included in the third substrate are arranged so as to extend in a left-right direction,
    and/or wherein the number of the electrodes included in the first substrate is greater than the number of the electrodes included in the third substrate,
    and/or wherein the electrodes included in the first substrate are arranged so as to extend in a left-right direction, and
    wherein the electrodes included in the third substrate are arranged so as to extend in an up-down direction.
EP17164525.2A 2016-04-07 2017-04-03 Vehicle camera Active EP3229069B1 (en)

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US20170293199A1 (en) 2017-10-12
CN107272168A (en) 2017-10-20
US10317771B2 (en) 2019-06-11
EP3229069A1 (en) 2017-10-11
KR101822894B1 (en) 2018-01-29
CN107272168B (en) 2020-04-10

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